Turn good managers into great coaches

A shift in approach

In traditional organizations, managers ensured compliance and tracked performance through assessments and ratings. Now, we know those approaches kill commitment and drop productivity.

Today’s best managers have a better way to help their teams succeed. Rather than managing performance, they develop it through open communication, trust, and coaching.

Take a look at the differences in how employees relate to their managers at Top Workplaces vs. average organizations.

My manager makes it easier to do my job well.

* Organizations that earned a Top Workplaces award. Source: Energage

My manager helps me learn and grow.

* Organizations that earned a Top Workplaces award. Source: Energage

My manager cares about my concerns.

* Organizations that earned a Top Workplaces award. Source: Energage

In this section, you’ll learn:

How managers become coaches

Adopting this new approach starts with removing the emphasis on annual reviews. To become coaches, managers should provide employees regular, personalized feedback that encourages continual learning and growth.

So how does coaching work? Here’s the basic philosophy: Mutual respect creates genuine connections that reveal a path to shared success.

To understand what that really means, let’s pull it apart.

Mutual respect

A manager is their employee’s boss. A coach is their employee’s guide. Instead of giving orders and focusing on past mistakes, they focus on strengths and encourage growth. They build a relationship as equal partners so the employee feels safe to take risks and find their own answers.

Genuine connection

Effective coaches see their employees as whole people and get to know them personally. With a candid, human connection, the employee is safe to share their unique motivations, skills, and interests. Only then can the manager see where those align with organizational needs.

Shared success

This phrase might ring a bell — it’s part of our definition of engagement, too. This kind of win-win thinking is only achievable when there’s complete clarity on what the organization and the employee need. Then, the coach and employee can work together to develop an aligned growth plan.

Through ongoing coaching, your employees can identify and recognize:

  • Individual interests
  • Skills they bring to the table
  • Organizational needs

Finding the Core Coaching Zone

Great managers help employees work within the intersection of these three areas — what we call the Core Coaching Zone. When managers take this approach to employee coaching, they can identify opportunities for development, reassignment, or realignment.

Coaching Zones

The Development Zone

Managers compare your organization’s needs and the employee’s interests to help the employee create a skill development plan.

The Reassignment Zone

Managers see where employee skills and organizational needs overlap, then redesign job responsibilities to maximize employee passion.

The Realignment Zone

When managers see skills and interests your organization doesn’t need, they help employees align to other priorities.

The Core Coaching Zone

This is the sweet spot. The best managers will learn to target and grow the areas where employee skills and interests meet the organization’s needs. Keeping as many employee tasks as possible within this zone should be the focus of regular, ongoing coaching conversations.

Managing with commitment at Marsh & McLennan

Marsh & McLennan Agency, a Michigan-based benefits firm and Top Workplace, saw from the very beginning that employee engagement — that having employees “all-in” — was crucial to overall business success. Beginning in the hiring process, the company places a high value on alignment and cultural fit. This translates to the management style, which is transparent and honest, even in the face of tough company decisions like an acquisition.

The leadership team emphasizes communication and encourages employees to voice their opinions. Because of their transparent culture and strong relationships, managers are able to equip and empower employees with the resources they need to succeed.

“Leadership and management are focusing on engagement to a greater degree and rightfully so. This is a positive evolution in the skills of leadership and management.” — Tom McGraw, CEO, Marsh & McLennan Agency, Michigan

Equip your teams with the right tools

As your managers move to this new approach to leading talent, help them out with better communication tools. For open communication to truly flourish, the old ways of performance reviews, emails, and focus groups have got to go.

To create the right conditions for high employee engagement, give managers and employees an easy way to communicate openly, effectively, and continually.

Keep reading to learn how you can create a culture of honest dialogue.